Skyfall

Movies live orchestra

Would bringing live music back into theaters improve your experience of watching a film? Or would it feel like an old timey distraction? Eight-seven years ago, before movies were able to synchronize sound to the actual picture, having live musicians and orchestras perform as the film played was the norm. The Artist showed audiences how silent films relied on the music to convey the feelings and emotions of the actors on screen in lieu of dialogue. But as film (and the film industry) moved into 1927 – film technology began to advance and recorded dialogue and sound synchronization became the way of the future as theaters began swapping out orchestras for speakers. But should theaters bring live music back to the movie going experience? We say yes.

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Anchorman 2 Baxter

“Black Friday” sales have spilled over into Thanksgiving Day. Amazon just announced that it wants to set the stage for the robot war by piloting commodity-delivery drones to your home. The holiday shopping season has literally become a deadly event. Consumer culture is out of control and omnipresent, rampantly breaking through boundaries of common sense, private space, and basic human decency. Yet on the everyday, experiential scale, consumer culture seems, more than ever before, like no big deal. Perhaps we have, for better or worse, collectively accepted it as an inevitable part of living. We expressed shock that the NSA was data-mining its citizens without any evidence of consistent legal parameters, yet only the occasional TED speaker is concerned that similar practices persist on behalf of marketers who feed from the social media we volunteer our lives to. Public schools are looking to private sponsors to fill in the funding gaps left by austerity. Bookshelves are stocked with arguments that our purchases – not our civic engagement, social awareness, or self-determination – have become the major constitutive factor in developing our individual sense of self. To these, we don’t really seem to mind. However, one place that blatant product-hawking is held accountable, in which peddling is met with a rattle of dismissal and rejection rather than tacit acceptance, is decent movies. Until now.

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roger_deakins-620x361

There’s a moment about halfway through Denis Villeneuve’s sprawling, occasionally brilliant yet sharply uneven film Prisoners that finds Jake Gyllenhaal’s Detective Loki do something that we’ve seen so many detectives do in movies before: in a bout of frustration, he swipes his arms across his cubicle desk, violently sending his evidence and other materials into a labyrinthine clutter. But this fit of anger ends up leading to a serendipitous discovery – the chaotic new arrangement of papers on the floor reveals for the detective a clue that had been hiding under his nose in plain sight the whole time. This is moment is, in short, a cliché. Yet on the other side of cinematographer Roger Deakins’s lens, the moment takes on a plentiful, foreboding, and eerie quality. The muted tones, carefully composed yet slightly agape mise en scène, and rich depth of field collectively transform a moment we’ve seen so many times before into something considerably more. Through brilliant lensing, a cliché is elevated into the possibility that something, anything can happen in the detailed and uncertain world of this film.

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Loki Glass Prison

The glass prison designers of the fictional world are making bank this year. It seems that almost every action-packed superhero or quasi-superhero film features the same prominent set piece and it hasn’tt gone unnoticed: a recent meme circulated remarking on the inefficacy of the glass  prison, showing the evolution of the structure on film. The image, created by Raven Montoya, stacked a number of villains captured in glass prisons on top of each other: Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs, Magneto from X2 (technically a plastic prison), Loki from Avengers,  Raoul Silva from Skyfall, and lastly, the animated Stitch from Lilo and Stitch. The caption  quipped, “Yes! Of course it’s a good idea to put the homicidal maniac in a glass prison. I’m sure he won’t get out.” That the villain always escapes comes hand in hand with another trope of the glass prison—to  quote the Joker in The Dark Knight, “It’s all part of the plan.” The villain intends to be caught in order to set his diabolical plan in motion. Charlie Jane Anders of io9 cites the Rube Goldbergian  nature of the scheme as one reason for the evil mastermind to create this situation—to enhance  his devious nature. She also notes a more important use of such a tactic: “You get to put the hero and the villain in the room together, without having them fight.” All this would seem to be blockbuster screenwriting 101. You set up a mid-movie failure to create tension before the final […]

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Sam Mendes directing Bond

Despite Sam Mendes’ protestations in March that he had made “the very difficult decision” not to return to the Bond franchise, the director and the studios themselves announced today that he is on board to helm Bond 24. Daniel Craig is also set to don his tuxedo once more and play the legendary secret agent.

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Daniel Craig

Ever since Sam Mendes announced that he wasn’t going to be able to direct whatever the 24th movie about secret agent James Bond is going to be, there has been a tidal wave of speculation concerning who’s going to take his place. Everyone from Nicolas Winding Refn, to Kathryn Bigelow, to Martin Campbell, to Morten Tyldum have become the subject of Bond 24 rumors, with no one’s involvement ever developing into anything more solid than whispers. But Showbiz 411 feels that they’ve now got something solid, a piece of news that they’ve said has been “as confirmed as it can be,” and they’re reporting that the director of Bond 24 is going to be none other than—Sam Mendes.

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Sam Mendes Directing Skyfall

There’s been big speculation surrounding Sam Mendes‘ potential return to the James Bond business because his blend of character beats and surprising action acumen is rightly noted as the main reason Skyfall worked so well. Unfortunately, his particular balance won’t be back. According to Empire, Mendes will not be returning for Bond 24: Whatever It Gets Titled. Citing other professional commitments, the director said, “It has been a very difficult decision not to accept Michael [G. Wilson] and Barbara [Broccoli]’s very generous offer to direct the next Bond movie. Directing Skyfall was one of the best experiences of my professional life, but I have theatre and other commitments, including productions of ‘Charlie And The Chocolate Factory’ and ‘King Lear,’ that need my complete focus over the next year and beyond.” So it’s bad news topped with bad news for anyone who doesn’t plan on buying a play ticket anytime soon. Mendes is still attached to produce several movies — most of which have been stalled out for a while — but this statement makes it seem likely that we won’t see him direct again for a while. He’s attached to direct Netherland, based off the Joseph O’Neill novel, and it’s still at Focus Features, but it’s unclear whether or when it will move forward. Thus, it looks like the filmmaker is going to wear some different hats for a while, and the next installment of the 007 franchise will have to find a suitable replacement. Isn’t J.J. Abrams available?

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Oscar2013 Stunts

No matter what you think about the Academy Awards (and there is whole wide spectrum of thought as to their relevance and accuracy) there is no question that The Oscars are the pinnacle of filmmaking honors. There isn’t any other organization, ceremony, or statue in the film industry that has quite the prestige. So, it should probably piss you off that The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science doesn’t offer an award for Stunt Coordinators. Yep, you read that right. They don’t even get awards in that weird little untelevised pre-show thing that they do before the awards telecast. It’s not a passive exclusion either. Each year for more than two decades, the Academy has actively rejected the creation of an award for Stunt Coordinators. So, since The Academy doesn’t do these masters of cinematic mayhem any justice, we’re going to pretend that they do. Like our other Oscar Prediction pieces, we’ll offer some insight into how the (fictional) nominees were chosen and who we think will win (noted in red):

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Best Cinematography

Cinematography, like many technical awards, is an incredibly difficult art form requiring years of experience, an encyclopedic knowledge of light and color, and an impossible ability to adapt to an industry whose technologies of capturing moving images are always changing. But that doesn’t mean someone as inexperienced as the Academy voters or myself shouldn’t be allowed to judge all that hard work! This year’s cinematography category is surprisingly controversial. Mihai Mălaimare, Jr’s work on The Master, once thought a shoo-in for this category, wasn’t even nominated, nor were other visually enthralling films, like Darius Wolski’s work on Promtheus. That said, the films that were ultimately nominated no doubt contain some expert cinematography (because I would know), but, as the political nature of these things always indicates, the question of “best” is highly suspect. Here’s how the nominees size up, with my prediction for the winner in red…

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Best Original Score

Film scores can be considered a dime a dozen – a bunch of orchestration that certainly needs to be there, but plays to the background and is rarely ever noticeable. And while that can be true, the last few years have introduced new composers and new ways of creating music into the world of film composing, electrifying and shaking up the “boring ol’ orchestration” into something undeniably new and exciting. And attention should be paid. The nominees in the Best Original Score category this year may not be new to the game or beat on the side of a car for a new look at percussion, but these scores come from a variety of films that needed very specific tones to be conveyed through their respective sounds. From the scandalous period piece Anna Karenina to the visually stunning journey of Life of Pi to a new adventure with a well-known secret agent in Skyfall to two historic films from two very different time periods, each attempting to overcome adversity with Argo and Lincoln. While most of the nominees have been up to bat in this category before, there is a newcomer among their ranks and it may be this fresh voice that bests them all (my prediction of his win noted in red.) Read on as we take a closer look this year’s five Best Original Score nominees and see who may end up being the best of the best come Oscar night…

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Best Original Song

Last year’s Best Original Song category had a dismal two (TWO!) nominations in a year that gave us such songs as the catchy “Hello Hello” from the piano man himself, Elton John (who has seen no love from the Academy since The Lion King in 1994) from Gnomeo and Juliet, a brand new (and beautifully haunting) song from The National, “Think You Can Wait,” from Win Win, and eleven new songs (any of which could have/should have been a contender) from Sigur Rós front-man Jónsi from We Bought a Zoo. Luckily this year the Academy decided on a much more respectable number of songs (five of them!) pulled from a variety of film genres including a documentary (Chasing Ice), comedy (Ted), musical (Les Misérables), action (Skyfall), and adventure (Life of Pi) performed by a range of singers, including chart topping artists and even one actress. An increased number of songs may be getting their moment in the spotlight this year, but only one will be left standing at the end of the big night. Read on as we turn up the volume on each of the nominees along with my prediction of the winner in red…

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Drinking Games

Skyfall is the most successful James Bond movie ever, raking in more than a billion dollars in worldwide box office. This week, it is available on DVD and Blu-ray for convenient home viewing. Though Bond is known for his signature drinks of vodka martinis (shaken not stirred) and more recently Vespers, the character has rarely been known to turn down alcohol in any form. Since all women want James Bond and all men want to be him, a great way to connect with the character is to enjoy a drink or two, or three, or 007 while watching his latest film.

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discs kid with bike

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Kid With a Bike (Criterion) Cyril (Thomas Doret) is a young boy in flux. His mother is long gone, and his father has dropped him at an orphanage ostensibly for a few days while he gets his job and house in order. That lie hides an unforgivable truth that Cyril simply can’t accept, but through his efforts to reunite with his dad he comes under the care of a single hairdresser (Cecile de France) with struggles of her own. This French film is a deceptively simple tale of a lost boy at risk, but it becomes one of the year’s most suspenseful experiences thanks in large part to Doret’s incredible performance. His fragile emotional state teases as much danger as local teen thugs and Cyril’s constant bike-riding do leaving viewers nervously awaiting a seemingly inevitable and terrible turn of events. But even as we worry we can’t help but fall in love with the boy and the woman, their challenging and sweet interactions, and the film’s effortless display of affection and humanity. I rarely buy Criterion titles at retail (because they’re freaking expensive!), but like Broadcast News and The Game I’ll be making an exception here. [Extras: Interviews, featurette, booklet, trailer]

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ted_02037204

Once upon a time, the Oscar nominations were filled with titles unfamiliar to the regular Joe. Not unknown, necessarily, but at least not widely seen. But today, thanks to all kinds of home video platforms and theatrical distribution for even the short film nominees, it’s not always so impossible to see everything before the big night. To help those of you wishing to be completists, I’ve listed all of this year’s recently announced Oscar nominees and noted how and where you can see them, whether presently or soon enough. It may not be entirely doable, as some foreign films haven’t officially been released here, including one that doesn’t even yet have a date, and some titles are in the middle of their theatrical to DVD window. But there are a bunch that can be streamed right this moment on your computer via Amazon, Google, YouTube and other outlets, each of which I’ve marked accordingly courtesy of GoWatchIt. Only three are through Netflix Watch Instant, by the way (How to Survive a Plague, The Invisible War and Mirror Mirror). And one short has been embedded in the post. 

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JENNIFER LAWRENCE and BRADLEY COOPER star in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

The 70th Golden Globe Awards will be held tomorrow night, and I invite you to join myself and FSR’s awards guru, Daniel Walber, for live-blog commentary during the ceremony. We’ll try to keep it smart, avoid too much snark and will likely be obeying the rules of the drinking game that co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have devised. It will also hopefully be more conversational than remarks we could have just tweeted, in order that I can turn the discussion around as a more readable post-event recap of the night. In case you’re too busy paying attention to your TV to also read our words simultaneously. Anyway, you can’t head into a big awards telecast viewing without predictions for what you think will win. Daniel and I seem to agree on exactly half of the movie categories. So, maybe it won’t be such a predicable night. Check out our choices after the break and give us your own predictions in the comments. If you do better than either of us, we commend you in advance (and maybe at the end of our GG coverage too).

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The Best Soundtracks of 2012

Looking back over the past year in film, it is impressive to remember the different styles and forms of music that accompanied these various releases as they bring back the memories and emotions felt when first hearing a particular song or watching a piece of orchestration pair perfectly with what was happening on screen. When it comes to music, it is not simply a question of what was the best; it is a question of what resonated the most. Music created for film is unlike any other type of music because it is intended to be listened to while watching specific images. Of course there are songs that stand well on their own (see: Adele’s “Skyfall”), but hopefully even outside of the film, those songs conjure up memories of the films they came from. Sometimes a song placed in a particular scene can take on a whole new meaning, giving you a new ideas to reflect on when you hear it (see: “The Air That I Breathe” by the Hollies as used in a pivotal scene in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.) Soundtracks and scores help add to the emotion of a film and this year’s musicians delivered in spades. From turning found sounds into orchestration to adding a new layer of depth to the end of a trilogy to proving that sometimes words simply are not enough, 2012 was filled with new, inventive, and memorable music. Let’s look back and listen to the twelve selections […]

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The Best Action Movies of 2012

Movies are many different things to many different peoples. A film may tug at your heart strings, tickle your funny bone, or change the way you look at the world. But sometimes all you want from a movie is an adrenaline shot straight to the heart, a testosterone booster right to the balls, or whatever the female equivalent of getting really hyped up over an action film is. 2012 didn’t see the apocalypse, but it did see a bunch of cinematic ass-kickery, the best of which is counted down here for your pleasure.

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The Avengers

According to USA Today, 2012 is the biggest box office year in movie history (not adjusted for inflation). The numbers aren’t set yet (because, you know, the year’s not over), but if the predictive models hold, the industry will close out with $10.8b and the first year since 2009 that individual ticket sales went up. Unsurprisingly, it was buoyed by big franchise hits — including over a billion coming in solely from The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. Another billion was earned from a franchise that was ending (Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2), two franchises that were just beginning (The Hunger Games and a rebooted Spider-Man) and a franchise that’s stronger than ever at a half-century old (Bond, James Bond). In the simplest terms, it only took 6 movies to cross the $2b mark this year whereas it took 8 movies to do the same in 2011. That may seem small, but when you’re dealing in the hundreds of millions, it can be the difference between a slump and a reason to buy a sheet cake at Costco for the company break room. Especially when the top movie this year outdid the top movie of the previous by $242m. The whole mess is too complicated to reduce to a single factor. Marvel’s big gamble paid off in a profound way, but there’s also the rebounding economy at large to think about and the general fickleness of consumers. Plus, this raw number doesn’t take into consideration that 50 more movies were released in 2012, […]

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Holiday Gifts for Movie Lovers

It’s way too late to even mail order something for your movie-loving loved ones this holiday season. Do you arrive to your holiday gathering empty-handed to the disappointment of all? NEVER! Please consider the gift options below for any of the movie nerds in your life, which neither require shipping nor a long wait. Nor a trip to a shopping mall, which as you can imagine, might be a life-risking endeavor. You are liable to be trampled, after all…

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Vin Diesel

Today is the best day ever for people who have fantasized about Vin Diesel sucking on a lollipop. Deadline reports that Universal is setting the mumbly-mouthed mountain of a man up as the new actor to play Kojak, the ’70s-era NYPD detective best known for his bald head, dapper attire, and always having a lollipop hanging out of his mouth. The character originally appeared in a CBS crime procedural, also called Kojak, which aired from 1973-1978 and starred Greek-American actor Telly Savalas in the title role. The good news doesn’t stop there, though. Every new big screen adaptation of an old TV show needs to start off by having a script, and along with securing Diesel in the title role, this new Kojak has also tapped Skyfall scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to put pen to page. Skyfall, of course, was one of the most financially successful films of 2012, and largely garnered positive reviews, so this is good news, no? Okay, so it’s more of a mixed bag when you factor in that they also wrote The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale, and Quantum of Solace, but let’s try to focus on the positive, okay? Now that a screenwriting team and a star have been put in place for this new look at an old cop, there are two big questions that are still hanging in the air. The first is who they are going to get to direct the film, and the second […]

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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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